Whether it is Delhi banning half of its cars each day to curb pollution or, nearer home, Bristol thinking of stopping diesels entering the city, there are massive worldwide climate-linked decisions being made that are influencing how we travel.
Despite all the efforts of car manufacturers to hold on to their financial might by producing electric and hybrid versions of their vehicles, the writing on the wall for all of them is stark. No wonder the big firms are merging, making alliances and sharing technology.
They have recognised the truth of the old adage most famously voiced by Benjamin Franklin that “we must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately”.
The future for countries like Ireland is not having more cars but having less, and using those that we do have more efficiently and more economically. One car rather than two – even if you are a Green Party senator on a farm in deepest Offaly – and more vehicle-sharing clubs, especially in cities.
However, so much revolves around better public transport infrastructure and, perhaps, more remote working. The crazy situation of cars by the hundreds of thousands with only one person in them setting off every morning for the commute to work, sitting in a street or car park unused all day until, once again in the evening, they convey one person home. It is a crazy, uneconomical situation that takes an amazing toll on resources, not to mention the physical and mental health of the drivers.
Please let the future be better.
It was interesting to recall that Britain’s first motorway turned 60 last weekend. I was still in short trousers then, but I remember the hype when the infamous Minister of Transport Ernest Marples opened the stretch of the M1 north of Watford. Now the road, which links London and Leeds, plus all the cities in between like Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield, is almost permanently congested for much of its length. And if you think the M50 or M1 here are bad, wait until you see the miles and miles of lorries on that special stretch of England’s green and pleasant land.
Anyway, let’s not be too miserable. If you are actually in the market for a new car next year, in some ways the choice has never been better and, despite some cynicism about their motives and the need for a more sustainable future, I believe that manufacturers are going out of their way to offer a whole array of propulsion options.
The Kamiq is one of the largest cars in its segment and is 20mm longer, has 24mm more headspace and the very same width as the much-loved Skoda Yeti that ceased production in 2017.
While the entry price is low, you will need to budget another €5k for tastier versions of this rather impressive car.
The new Peugeot 208 was a bit of a knockout when it was unveiled in Portugal, especially as it came in a very nippy electric version alongside petrol and diesel without any loss of interior or boot space.
Prices start from €18,300 for the Active 1.2 PureTech 75bhp petrol model while the entry level e-208 Active version retails from €27,334, inclusive of the SEAI grant and VRT relief.
However, the most attractive e-208 will be the GT version at €32,660. The e-208 has a range of 340km, which is at about the level where range anxiety will disappear. It will get me to Rathmullan House in Donegal anyway.
Unfortunately, all the prices for the new Skodas and Peugeot are before the awful “delivery and related charges”.
Meanwhile Hyundai, perhaps my favourite mainstream marque – at least it is the one that Spray household money has twice been splashed on – has some very interesting developments.
The i10, its brilliant city model which was the Sunday Independent Car of the Year and I would happily have given it to the car in perpetuity, has been totally relaunched.
It is bigger inside, slightly lower and sportier looking while being very highly specced and with great safety equipment. It really looks very impressive and I can’t wait to test it in the new year.
The car will start to arrive in showrooms late next month with prices starting at €14,245 and going on to €17,995 for the DeLuxe Plus Automatic. If it is anything like the present generation, it is all the car most people really need.
Hyundai’s massively successful Kona, which is not only the top-selling small SUV in petrol and diesel form but also the country’s favourite EV this year, has now a third string to its bow which should further enhance its desirability.
The Kona Hybrid has begun arriving in showrooms retailing at €28,495. It is rather a stunner with special alloys and an impressive spec. It is a great compromise if you aren’t quite ready to make the whole plunge to electric yet.
Last Thursday, I dusted off my tux and went along to the Continental Tyres Irish Car and Van of the Year 2020 awards at the Westin Hotel in Dublin.
I haven’t been a fan of car awards here for a few years as I was very upset at all the infighting that resulted in two organisations for motoring journalists in this country and separate awards.
Now, both groups have come together, for the awards at least. I have friends in both camps, but many of the national motoring editors, including myself, The Irish Times, Irish Independent and the Irish Daily Mail are not members of either organisation.
However, I thought it would be churlish to turn down an invitation from Anthony Conlon and Bob Flavin, the joint chairmen of the Irish Car of the Year Committee, to come along and see how things have progressed. Of course, there is no such thing as a free dinner and the prizewinners are listed in a panel here. Thank you lads for inviting me. I will come back to the subject another time.
It would be wrong to end this column without paying respect to Gay Byrne and his work as chairman of the Road Safety Authority. He put a lot of really hard work into his role and many of the major improvements we have seen in recent years began to bear fruit because of his eight years at the helm of the RSA, which only ended five years ago. He wasn’t afraid of anybody and he leaves a very real legacy in the field of road safety.
- Don’t miss next week’s eight-page 201 supplement